Capital Improvements & Parks New Focus Of Saugatuck Township Board
It has been at least 10 years, but Saugatuck Township now has the financial solvency to focus on capital improvements and its parks.
“The four years I’ve been on the township board, we never talked about parks,” said Saugatuck Township Supervisor Jon Phillips during last week’s township board meeting.
“It’s exciting we are talking about it,” he added, echoing colleagues’ enthusiasm.
They were responding to the Saugatuck Township Parks Commission’s presentation of ideas for improvements and projects at River Bluff Park, which has riverfront access (Kalamazoo Harbor) with entrance via Old Allegan Road.
“We’ve got million dollar views there that we can really improve on,” Saugatuck Township Parks Commission Member Dana Burd and the city engineer with Prein & Newhof told the board during the presentation.
Some of the concepts visualized at this point include riverfront boardwalks; wider existing dirt trails; a nature trail, possibly up to 1 1/2 miles long; expansive riverfront views; and piers or observation docks that pump-out from the boardwalk.
The “crazy ideas,” to possibly consider, included a zip line course, rope bridges, a modern playground with equipment, high overlooks, and so on.
The ideas are a luxury to a township board which, compared to past years when it spent time and energy on such things as discussing attorney fees and trying to figure out how to get the township’s insurance to cover unrelated, unexpected legal expenses.
“We’ve been building up our general fund balance over three-and-a half years (by significantly reducing attorney fees, consolidating staff roles, etc.),” said Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich.
The township’s unassigned/unallocated general fund balance is at $157,000 (a fund balance is created or increased when fund revenues exceed fund expenditures following a fiscal period).
Burd’s presentation last week immediately preceded a Saugatuck Township Board adoption of a finance policy—as dictated by municipal finance practice standards—that essentially creates a strategic plan for unallocated monies, namely unassigned General Fund balances.
The resolution allows for—and recommends—the establishment of a capital improvements fund and a parks system fund, previously nonexistent.
The two funds are now set to be recipients of unallocated general fund balance money, with specific amounts to be determined by the township board at a later date.
Along with this, the new policy institutes the minimum unassigned general fund balance at no less than 25 percent of total actual general fund expenses and the maximum unassigned general fund balance at no more than 100 percent of total actual general fund expenses.
When a fund balance approaches its maximum threshold, the newly adopted finance policy recommends various measures, including, among others, the acceleration of capital improvements such as dispersing funds to a capital project fund and the development and use of a park system fund.